Candidates...start your engines
Longtime Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow announced on Thursday that she would not seek re-election in 2024, retiring the Senate seat she's occupied for more than two decades while opening a new front for her party to defend in a presidential election cycle.
"For the next two years, I am intensely focused on continuing this important work to improve the lives of Michiganders," Stabenow explained in a statement posted to her Senate website. "This includes leading the passage of the next five-year Farm Bill, which determines our nation's food and agriculture policies. It is also key in protecting our land and water and creating jobs in our rural and urban communities."
Stabenow, 72, joined the Senate in 2001, and said she plans to "begin a new chapter in my life that includes continuing to serve our state outside of elected office while spending precious time with my amazing 96-year-old mom and my wonderful family."
The National Republican Senatorial Committee was quick to leap on Stabenow's announcement, writing in a press release that the party plans to "aggressively target" her seat in the upcoming elections, predicting that "this could be the first of many Senate Democrats who decide to retire rather than lose."
Stabenow's retirement does pose a serious risk for Democrats who managed to expand their Senate majority in the 2022 midterms thanks in no small part to not having to defend any open seats. With Stabenow's seat now up for grabs, Democrats will have to expend significant time, energy, and money to keep Michigan — a notoriously swingy Midwestern state — in their column during a presidential election year, where voter turnout is typically higher. Making matters worse for the party, beyond Stabenow's retirement, Democrats will still have 22 other incumbent seats to defend in 2024, as well.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee nevertheless projected confidence about holding onto Michigan, noting in a brief statement that all three Democratic incumbents won their respective races for governor, secretary of state, and attorney general in the past election cycle, and that "we are confident Democrats will hold this Senate seat in 2024."
While no one from either party has announced their plans to run for Stabenow's soon-to-be-empty position, Democrats have the benefit of a deep bench of state-level candidates who could pose a serious bulwark against any Republican attempts to flip the seat. Among them are: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who handily won re-election in 2022 by more than 10 points; current Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who moved to the state in 2020; and Rep. Elissa Slotkin, who significantly outperformed Joe Biden in her south-central district this past midterm cycle.